Famous folk who killed themselves, vol. 2

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A few weeks ago, we ran through some of history's lesser-known but most fascinating suicides (which in the case of Cap'n Lawrence Oates' noble death, let's just call it a "self-offing.") Turns out there's plenty of self-offing to go around, and lots more examples from history. Is this too morbid for a blog with such a happy color scheme? Maybe. But what the heck:

John Kennedy Toole
An American novelist from New Orleans, Toole is famous -- or rather infamous -- for having died in obscurity, only to be rocketed to fame when his unpublished (and brilliant) absurdist novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1981. It's been kicking around Hollywood for years, and was almost made by Steven Soderbergh a few years ago. Like the novel, however -- which publishers rejected because "it isn't really about anything," -- the screenplay is probably a tough sell.

Joseph Merrick
Also known as "the Elephant Man," his suicide is debated -- in the wonderful David Lynch film (The Elephant Man), his death is treated as intentional: his head was so large that sleeping normally -- that is, horizontally -- constricted his air flow. He suffocated, and there's been much speculation as to whether his death was accidental or not. By the way, if you're not clear on why someone like Merrick -- who enjoyed the attentions of Queen Victoria and London socialites of his time -- would be inclined to shuffle off this mortal coil, I think it's telegraphed nicely in one of the great scenes of modern cinema, from Lynch's film:

woolf.jpgVirginia Woolf suffered from depression and, near the end of her life, waning critical interest in her new writing. She chose an awfully strange -- and perhaps self-consciously poetic -- way of taking care of the problem: walking into the river near her home with her pockets filled with stones.

October 24, 2007 - 1:00am
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